The decision did not come as a surprise in France where opposition to full marriage rights for same sex couples remains high.
The proposal was put forward by the Socialist Party but strongly opposed by the governing UMP party.
Michel Diefenbacher, an MP with the UMP, claimed that those voting against “did not want to blow with the wind or give in to fashion. We are against homophobia but we are not in favour of changing our understanding of the function of marriage.”
Others went further in their attacks. The leader of the right-wing Front National, Marine Le Pen, asked in an interview with France Inter “why not legalise polygamy?” Christian Vanneste from the UMP declared that same sex marriage is an “anthropological aberration”.
Nine UMP MPs voted for the proposal, including former minister and possible Presidential contender Jean-Louis Borloo. Speaking to Europe 1, he said he was “in favour of equality for everyone.”
France created an equivalent of a civil union for same sex couples in November 1999. The PACS (pacte civil de solidarité), which is open to heterosexual and gay couples, offers legal recognition of a partnership but stops short of giving the same rights as marriage.